Steve Chapman

The United States government and the Taliban don't agree on much, but they have found one point of convergence: Both think someone needs to get a hose and put out the flames engulfing Hamid Karzai's pants.

The Afghan president has often criticized the Americans for carrying out drone strikes that kill innocent bystanders. But over the past year or so he has started blaming us for things we didn't even do. He has gone from understandably prickly to irrationally hysterical.

Last month, he welcomed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Kabul by publicly accusing the U.S. of collaborating with the Taliban in bombings that killed 17 people. "Those bombs that went off in Kabul and Khost were not a show of force to America," he announced. "They were in service of America."

His latest claim goes further, accusing the U.S. of actually mounting insurgent-like attacks against his forces. "Karzai has formalized his suspicions with a list of dozens of attacks that he believes the U.S. government may have been involved in," reported The Washington Post. "The list even includes the recent bomb and gun assault on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, one of the bloodiest acts targeting the international community in Afghanistan."

American commander Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. called the charge "ludicrous." We have to assume that Dunford coordinated his response with Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, who said the group has taken credit for many of the incidents because "those are attacks that have genuinely been carried out by our forces."

In Karzai's mind, Barack Obama has obvious motives for this brazen treachery. One, relayed to the Post by an anonymous Karzai aide, is distracting everyone from the civilians killed in American air strikes. Another is undermining Karzai because he is too protective of his people.

Then there is the most powerful of all: our desire "to keep foreigners longer in Afghanistan," as Karzai puts it. He evidently is laboring under the misimpression that we have sacrificed more than 2,000 lives and vast sums of money because we enjoy occupying a poor, inhospitable, violence-prone country with which we have almost nothing in common.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Obama saluted Army Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who "was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan." But, the president noted, "he's learned to speak again and stand again and walk again -- and he's working toward the day when he can serve his country again."

If so, we can hope his country will find better purposes than propping up a regime headed by someone who sounds as hostile and extreme as our declared enemies in Afghanistan.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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